Karen Hancock

  • Doctoral Researcher
Start date: July 2018
Primary supervisor: Professor Paul Downward
Secondary supervisor(s): Professor Lauren Sherar

Karen is a part-time PhD student at Loughborough, living in London. An economist for almost 40 years in academia and government, she was Chief Economist in the Department of Education from 2008-2013. She now provides economics consultancy to the government and charity sectors, training in the use of research evidence to civil servants, and interviews economists applying to the Government Economic Service. In 2016, she started her PhD at the Open University, transferring to Loughborough in July 2018. Karen has also been a UK Athletics-qualified endurance running coach for 20 years, and is still a keen runner, competing regularly.


Research Title: Investigating relationships between older people's wellbeing and their choice of leisure-time activities, including physical activity

Older people have more leisure time as work and family commitments diminish, and yet have the lowest rates of physical activity. How do older people choose to spend their leisure time, what is the relationship between their choices and their wellbeing, and how can intrinsic motivation be leveraged to encourage more physical activity to help older people delay mental and physical decline and improve their life quality?

Karen is carrying out three studies to investigate these issues. She completed fieldwork for one study using innovative ecological momentary analysis methods, which involved devising a brief survey delivered 6 times per day via an app on participants’ smartphones. An article has been submitted for publication to the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. During 2020 she carried out econometric analyses for her second study using the Taking Part Survey data. This will be followed by a third qualitative study of older people's feelings about their activities in depth. 

External activities

Karen is an external adviser on a number of research projects:

  • "Better for Less: Improving Productivity in Public Services" at the University of Surrey, funded by the Leverhulme Trust https://www.surrey.ac.uk/better-for-less
  • "The Nuffield Research Placements evaluation" by Frontier Economics for The Nuffield Foundation
  • Designing and evaluating "Ten Today!" project, which uses radio broadcasts to encourage elderly residents in sheltered accommodation to undertake at least 10 minutes of physical activity per day for Demos UK, funded by Sport England.  

Featured publications

  • Hancock, K (2018) “An Epitaph by Degrees: Physical Activity into Older Age”: https://serpentimes.co.uk/physical-activity-into-older-age/ (Magazine article)
  • Hancock, K (2018) “Healthier Ageing: increasing physical activity among older people – a behavioural economics perspective” – abstract accepted for presentation at Department for Work and Pensions’ annual Economists’ conference, University of Sheffield, July 2018.
  • Hancock, K. and Munro, M. (1992), Housing Subsidies, Inequality and Affordability: Evidence from Glasgow. Fiscal Studies, 13: 71-97. doi:10.1111/j.1475-5890.1992.tb00507.
  • Hancock, K.E. (1993), Can't Pay, Won't Pay: Economic Principles of Affordability. Urban Studies, 30: 127-145. http://usj.sagepub.com/content/30/1/127.abstract
  • K. E. Hancock, D. R. Holden & J. K. Swales (1991) Consistency of the spatial allocation of NHS hospital resources: an econometric analysis, Applied Economics, 23:10, 1623-1636, DOI: 10.1080/00036849100000127